Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Breaking the cycle

Last month, 20 prisoners from Pollsmoor graduated from Network’s job readiness programme, equipping them with the skills they’ll need to find employment after their release. In this post, Deborah Cuthbert takes a  look at some of the obstacles ex-offenders face and how we can support them as a community.

On Freedom Day in March this year, the president caused quite a stir when he announced the early release of  approximately 14 651 prisoners from prisons across the country. I’m sure many a law-abiding citizens heart skipped a beat when they heard this news. But have you ever considered that the prisoners and their families are concerned about this as well?

Let’s take a look at the story of Jo*.  Jo is one of these prisoners considered for early release.  He has been socialised into the prison system where virtually all decision-making has been taken away from him. Imagine being told when you must wake up and when you must go to sleep, when you must eat and when you must exercise, when you can see your family and when you can speak to your friends.All of these decisions have been taken out of Jo’s hands.  He hasn’t had to make any decisions for himself. Instead, he’s learnt to constantly be on his guard, watching his back for attackers.

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Shifting Perspectives – Story 4

What’s in your heart?

“Last week in small group I decided to open up the topic of prejudice for group discussion. Some very interesting events and experiences came up from the various stages of our lives. This had us discussing how we were brought up, how our parents shaped our lives and thinking, to our own personal experiences around prejudice and that of others.

“Someone shared how once when walking from their front door to their car, they’d seen a group of African men walking towards them and their immediate reaction had been to get into their car as quickly as possible and drive away. Even though these men were probably just on their way to work.

“Others in the group shared that they’d had a similar experiences. Why do we have these reactions when it goes against what we believe? What triggers these thoughts? Is it because of newspapers or TV reports? Or because of upbringing?

“We discussed how we need to have a broader understanding of the social issues that surround us. We also shared stories about how our parent’s comments and discussions in our homes, often fraught with fear and prejudice, during childhood shaped the way we began to view people of other races and socio-economic backgrounds.

“It was an in-depth and honest discussion which took up the entire evening. By the end, there were more unanswered questions than anything else but maybe this is a good place for us to all start. Maybe we need to ask these questions in order to begin understanding and confronting our own prejudices. Maybe this is the first step in breaking the patterns of thinking that have been shaped by our upbringing or experiences. I challenge everyone to begin questioning their reactions before accepting them.” – Lynne White

Do you have any stories you’d like to share with us? Email us at 

Shifting Perspectives – Story 3

Clothed in Dignity

“Marc had lost his job and after three months ran out of money, was evicted from his accommodation and found himself living under the bridge in Rondebosch. One night he was accosted by three men, beaten up and robbed of all his possessions. A Common Grounder running a soup kitchen met Mark and encouraged him to visit Common Ground. Mark arrived one Sunday morning, feeling very out of place in his dirt-stained clothing and found it very difficult to approach the building, let alone enter the doors. Once in, he was regarded with caution by onlookers, assumed to be a pilferer and not a worshipper.

“I met Mark that morning and had a discussion with him that led to further meetings over cups of coffee, where I heard his story. After sharing the Gospel message with him, his face lit up with new understanding. We assisted him by having his clothing washed and adding a few new items to his meagre wardrobe. The following Sunday he arrived more confidently with the news that he was going to a job interview. He phoned me on the Tuesday to say that he had been successful and how grateful he was to have found the love of Christ. He is now part of a church community in Atlantis.

“It is so easy to judge someone by their outward appearance, instead of taking the time to get to know them.” – Dave Pendrigh

Look out for our final installment in this series tomorrow, “What’s in your heart?”…

Shifting perspectives – Story 2

The power of humility

“In 2010 while on my way to Germany I stopped over in Joburg to spend a few hours at a conference I had been invited to. The conference was nothing unusual in the jet-setting NGO world: hype, suits, donors bragging about funding, NGO’s bragging about donors, a room full of people who had little in common with the people their programs aimed to serve.

“After a few speakers had rushed through their glossy PowerPoint’s, an old lady named Kathy was called to the stage. She had a tough act to follow; the previous speaker was managing a multi-million dollar micro-finance fund for disabled women. As the old lady approached the stage my first impression of her was laced with pity.Kathy was shy. As she awkwardly settled at the microphone she briefly glanced up, then keeping her head down, gave a slight wave to the audience. She never made eye contact. But as Kathy began to speak the room fell silent.

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Shifting Perspectives – Story 1

We all have a story of an incident where we pre-judged someone. Maybe it was they way they dressed, or spoke, or ate, or talked. But whatever the reason, Jesus calls us to view all people as equal, loved and valued in His sight. Here is the first in a series of stories from Common Grounders sharing their experiences.

A grocery store encounter

“I’ll never forget being at the front of a long shopping queue only to discover I was 50 cents short. It’s what happened next that really impacted me. An old man, in dirty blue overalls, with holes in his shoes and the smell of smoke on his clothes, tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a rand. Everything in me wanted to refuse it – after all – I didn’t need anything from this man surely? But I did. I needed a new perspective. One where I see all people as bearers of dignity, as able to help, not just be helped. What that old man was offering was not only some change, but a chance to change the way I see people. He offered me a chance to connect on a simple, yet profound level. And I took it.” – Julie Williams

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